While poking around the web while I ate my lunch, I discovered that today is Squirrel Appreciation Day! I know many gardeners can’t stand the little beasts, and when we tried to grow tomatoes a couple of summers ago, I didn’t feel too friendly toward them, either. But usually I’m quite taken by these fluffy-tailed guys. And I’m not the only one—President Ronald Reagan used to feed the squirrels outside the Oval Office.
I love the way squirrels flick their tails when they’re agitated and chitter at you self-importantly from their safe perches far overhead. I can’t help but smile when they’re all fluffed up in winter or nod sympathetically when they’re draped across a branch, trying to cool off in summer. Way, way back, when I was a tiny thing, one of my favorite cartoons was even “Secret Squirrel.”
Squirrels also have an important job planting trees. They bury far more acorns and seeds than they can possibly uncover and eat, and the forgotten food then sprouts. They also won the sweepstakes when it comes to cuteness. Without that plume of a tail, they’d not look much different from their rodent cousin, the rat. But with the fluffy factor, they’re the subject of countless tourist pictures around the Mall here in Washington and elsewhere.
As soon as I found out it was Squirrel Appreciation Day, I went to the Archives’ Online Public Access prototype search tool and typed in “squirrel.” I was surprised at the number of hits that I got. Many of them were about pest control and squirrel hunting, but today’s not the day for that. You can look that up for yourself. My favorite is a picture from FEMA files. It shows two members of a veterinary rescue team working on a baby squirrel after Hurricane Katrina.
So spare an appreciative thought for squirrels today. In winter, they’re not stealing your vegetables or uprooting your tulips (yet). Let them entertain you with their acrobatics on the high wire or amazing leaps from tree to tree. Squirrel chases across fences and spiraling around treetops are also highly entertaining. And though my squirrel tales have been mostly about the gray squirrels in our backyards, don’t forget to appreciate ground squirrels and flying squirrels, too!